Participatory Farm Management
methods for agricultural research
and extension: a training manual
Mark Galpin1, Peter Dorward1 and Derek Shepherd2
Department of Agriculture
Agricultural Extension and Rural Development Department
The University of Reading
PO Box 237
Reading RG6 6AR
ISBN 0 7049 1091 8
6 FIELD MANUAL Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods
Box 1 Summary of PFM methods
1 Scored Causal Diagrams (SCD) help to examine in detail the
causes and effects of problems and identify the root causes
which need to be addressed. The scoring procedure helps to
analyse the relative importance of the problems and prioritise
2 Participatory Budgets (PB) are tools which examine a
farmer s use and production of resources over time for a
specific enterprise. Their main uses are for:
! analysing farmers existing activities, resource-use and
! exploring the resource implications of a change to an
! comparing different enterprises
! planning a new enterprise.
3 Resource Allocation Maps (RAM) examine the use of
resources over the whole farm during a specific period of time
e.g. a month. RAMs can be used for:
! looking at farmers decisions regarding resource allocation in
! examining resource competition between different enterprises
at a specific time of the year.
4 Resource Flow Diagrams (RFD) help to analyse flows of
resources at the farm level.
Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods FIELD MANUAL 7
The outsiders role
PFM methods are designed to be used by research, extension or
development workers, with small groups of farmers. As with all
participatory methods the attitude and approach of the facilitator is key to
the successful use of the methods and is as important as the method
itself. The role of the outsider should be one of facilitator and pupil, rather
than teacher. He / She will need to initiate the discussion and introduce
the method to the group, but as soon as possible the participants should
take over and do the exercise themselves. The facilitator is therefore
learning from the participants and asking questions for clarification.
Facilitators need to be constantly aware of their behaviour and role in the
group, to ensure that they do not dominate and control. The tips given
below in Box 2 will help the facilitator to achieve this.
Box 2 General tips for use of the methods
! Focus on things of interest to the farmer, not to you.
! Be flexible — with the farmers flow .
! Let the farmers do it themselves.
! Who s holding the beans? — should not be you!
! Don t immediately correct the farmers, even if you think they have
made a mistake. They will probably correct it later themselves.
! Let the farmers do the talking.
! Learn rather than teach.
! Be imaginative and creative in the use of symbols. They should be
as representative of what they are portraying as possible.
! Keep diagrams on the floor clear.
! Keep the exercise moving — t let the participants get bored.
10 FIELD MANUAL Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods
Method 1: Scored Causal Diagrams (SCDs)
Problem listing, scoring and ranking is a commonly used and effective
PRA tool. However these techniques often fail to examine the
relationships between the problems identified, as scores are given for
each problem independently, even if the problems are closely linked.
This can result in closely related problems being seen in isolation.
Attempts have been made to look at these inter-relationships e.g. using
problem tree analysis, however this is often a method used purely for the
collection of information, with analysis and interpretation carried out by
outsiders rather than the community themselves.
Causal diagramming is a technique which helps the farmer and
researcher together to identify the linkages and relationships between
different problems. This technique has begun to be used by PRA
practitioners and is further developed in this manual, mainly through the
introduction of a scoring method which is used with the diagram. Scored
causal diagramming helps to clarify the nature of each problem more
exactly and to identify the root causes or problems which need to be
addressed, and their relative importance. This also helps in identifying
possible key solutions and the knock-on effects of those solutions.
Scored Causal Diagrams help to examine in detail the causes and
effects of problems and to identify the root causes which need to be
addressed. The scoring procedure helps to analyse the relative
importance of the problems and prioritise them.
Scored Causal Diagrams (SCDs) are particularly useful when discussing
the problems associated with a specific crop or enterprise. However,
they can also be used to look at more general problems facing an
individual or a community as a whole.
In this section, Causal Diagrams (CDs) are first described and then the
scoring technique is introduced. Such a method is much easier to use in
the field, than it is to describe in a manual. We would therefore
encourage those who are put-off initially by the apparent complexity of
SCDs to persevere and have a go in the field, as this is when their
strengths become apparent. With increased experience and practice
more will be gained by both facilitators (researchers or extension
workers) and by farmers through the use of the method.
Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods FIELD MANUAL 11
1.2 Description of Causal Diagrams
Causal diagramming works most effectively after farmers have
discussed, listed and scored their problems. Each of the problems listed
is then represented on the ground by a symbol. Arrows are used to
represent the cause and effect relationships between these different
problems. Through discussion further problems and their causes and
effects might be added to the diagram. A Causal Diagram should not be
considered to be a definitive statement but as a useful tool to aid
discussion and in-depth analysis of problems and issues together with
It should be noted that individual problems are often causes of other
problems. For example from the simplified example given in Box 4,
buses late is a problem as well as a cause of drivers drive too fast . It is
therefore artificial to distinguish between problems and causes. In the
text we therefore use the terms interchangeably.
12 FIELD MANUAL Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods
Box 4 Simplified example of a Causal Diagram
The problems identified by various users of a bus company were:
! poor roads
! many accidents
! buses are late
Through discussing and drawing the causes and relationships
between the problems, it became apparent that the problems were
closely linked. Another problem also came to light.
Poor roads result in the buses being late. Because the buses are late,
the drivers drive too fast. Driving fast results in lots of accidents. The
accidents are also directly caused by the poor roads. (Note that the
end problem of lots of accidents is the opposite of the objective of
the bus company i.e. safe transport).
The root cause of the problems identified is therefore the poor
roads . The solution is therefore to improve the condition of the roads.
This will mean that buses arrive on time, therefore the drivers will not
need to drive too fast, which will result in fewer accidents. Better
roads will also directly reduce the number of accidents. By solving the
root cause of the problems identified (poor roads), the end problem
(lots of accidents) will be solved. The objective of the bus company
(safe transport) will therefore be achieved.
Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods FIELD MANUAL 13
a The topic or area of discussion is first identified with the participants.
This could be simply general problems facing a community or could
be focused on a specific crop or enterprise which interests the
participants. The group should come to a consensus on the specific
enterprise or area they want to examine.
b The farmers discuss and list their problems using symbols to illustrate
each problem as it is identified. This list is then scored. The facilitator
explains that often problems are connected and the next step is to
look at the connections between the problems identified. This can be
explained briefly using an appropriate example (see Box 4).
c If a specific enterprise is being discussed, the objective of the
enterprise needs to be clarified with the participants by asking why
they are involved in this particular enterprise. For example, if it is a
cash crop the objective is likely to be to earn income . If it is a food
crop it is likely to be to grow enough food to eat . Often there may be
more than one objective, for example for a crop which is both eaten
and sold. All objectives should be identified.
d These objectives (or objective) are then expressed as problems and
symbolised on the ground. For example, if tomatoes were being
discussed and the objective of the farmers was to earn an income
from tomatoes , this objective expressed as a problem becomes low
income from tomatoes . If the objective is enough tomatoes to eat this
becomes not enough tomatoes to eat . On a general Causal
Diagram the objective is likely to be wealth or happiness . The end
problem would therefore be poverty or unhappiness . The objective
expressed as a problem is the end or final problem on the Causal
Diagram which all other problems eventually cause.
e The direct causes of the end problem are then identified by the
farmers. As they are identified the symbols are placed on the diagram
and arrows are drawn in to represent the causal relationships
between the problems. Each problem is represented on the ground
once only. The causes of those problems are identified and added to
the diagram. These may be from the original list or may be newly
identified. The process is continued until the participants are happy
that all the problems have been included and all the connections
N.B. It is important that a general lack of money as a cause, is
separated from the problem of low income from the enterprise ,
otherwise it can result in a very confusing diagram. Often it is helpful
to exclude the problem of a general lack of money altogether from the
diagram as it can dominate and be seen as the source of all the
14 FIELD MANUAL Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods
f The problems at the edge of the diagram with no identified causes
are the root causes. If the logic of the diagram is correct, solving
these root causes will result in the other problems being overcome. It
can therefore be useful to discuss possible solutions to these root
causes with farmers and identify which ones can be influenced by the
farmers themselves, and which cannot. Those which are outside of
the control of the farmer are likely to be researchable constraints
which need outside support to overcome. Researchers should
investigate these problems further. For example poor rainfall may be
overcome by a more appropriate crop variety or through water
conservation measures. Other problems which can be influenced by
the farmers are likely to be developmental in nature and subject to
more immediate influence.
g The positive effects of the solution can be traced back on the diagram,
turning problems into solutions e.g. buses late becomes buses on
h This can result in the farmers prioritising the possible solutions which
they would like to explore further.
Photograph 1 Farmers constructing a Causal Diagram, Brong Ahafo Region, Ghana
Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods FIELD MANUAL 15
1.4 General Causal Diagram: example from Zimbabwe
Figure 1 Causal Diagram for general problems experienced by a farmer group,
Gweru District, Zimbabwe
In the Causal Diagram above the end problem is poverty / hunger
which are directly caused by low crop production and low prices for
cattle. The root causes i.e. those with no identified cause are high
population and expensive inputs .
16 FIELD MANUAL Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods
1.5 Example of a Causal Diagram for a specific enterprise
The following example is from an exercise carried out with a group of
farmers in Buhera District, Zimbabwe who specialise in cotton growing.
The problems associated with cotton production were discussed and a
Causal Diagram of these problems drawn up.
Figure 2 Causal Diagram for cotton growing, Buhera District, Zimbabwe
Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods FIELD MANUAL 17
Box 5 Tips for causal diagramming
! Select a shady area with a large clear ground area to draw the
diagram e.g. under a mango tree.
! Encourage the farmers to draw the arrows and circles clearly on
! Each problem should be illustrated on the ground once only.
! If your diagram begins to look like a bicycle wheel it suggests that
cause and effect interactions are being left out.
! Use symbols which have an actual connection with the problem
they represent e.g. cow dung to represent lack of manure , so
everyone can remember which symbol represents what problem.
! Discuss the causes and effects of a problem before drawing it on
the ground so it is clear where it should be positioned on the
diagram. This avoids the diagram becoming too confusing.
! It is important that the distinction is made between the general
problem of lack of cash , and the more specific problem of low
income from the enterprise being considered. They should not be
classified as the same problem but should be distinct on the
diagram. If this distinction is not made then the scoring technique
outlined in Section 1.6. below may not work.
! It is often better to exclude the problem of low income totally as
this tends to dominate the diagram. This can be done by
explaining to the participants that low income is a universal
problem, so it is better to exclude it from a diagram looking at
specific problems. If it is included then it should be as a final effect
rather than as a cause.
! Limit the problems to those directly related to the enterprise and
actually experienced by the farmers.
! Whilst drawing the diagram the facilitator should encourage
discussion by asking questions. For example, I don t understand
this connection, can you please explain it to me . This ensures
that all the group and the facilitator understand the diagram fully.
! Focus on solutions which the farmers themselves can implement.
! At the end of the exercise the diagram can be re-drawn onto paper
for the farmers to keep and refer back to later, if they so wish.
18 FIELD MANUAL Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods
1.6 Scoring method for use with Causal Diagrams
Although Causal Diagrams are useful for identifying the causes of
specific problems and the connections between these problems, they
give no indication of the relative importance of the different factors
causing each problem. A scoring system is therefore needed so that the
relative importance of each of the problems can be analysed.
The scoring method outlined below involves moving counters up from
the end problem by dividing them between the causes of each
subsequent problem. We recommend that while reading through this
section of the manual you physically do this.
This scoring method helps to determine which causes are more
important than others and enables further detailed discussion of each of
these. Often this highlights different problems from straight-forward
ranking and scoring, providing new insights for both farmers and
outsiders. It can sometimes be more useful to score just part of the
diagram rather than the whole of it, particularly for general Causal
Photograph 2 Farmers in Brong Ahafo Region, Ghana, scoring a Causal Diagram
Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods FIELD MANUAL 19
1.6.2 Scoring procedure
a After drawing the Causal Diagram, identify the end or final problem
(the objective expressed as a problem) on the diagram. This should
have no effect arrow exiting from it. In the example below this would
be low income from maize .
b Place an even number of beans on this problem e.g. 10. The number
of beans you start with is not important, although the more individual
problems there are on the diagram, the more counters are needed at
Low grade Low yields
•• = 2 beans / counters
from maize = ‘end’ problem
= ‘root’ cause
c Ask the farmers to divide the 10 beans between the causes of that
problem (i.e. the arrows entering the problem), to represent how
important the causes of that problem are.
Low grade Low yields
••• (3) •••••
In this example low yields are seen by the farmers as the primary
cause of low income and are perceived to be just over twice as
important as poor quality .
20 FIELD MANUAL Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods
d The scores are then taken back a further step and divided between
the causes of the next problem using the same procedure as in step
c). In this example the score for low yields (7) is divided between
many pests (4) and poor emergence (3).
••• (3) •••• (4)
Low grade Low yields
e If no causes of the problem have been identified on the diagram i.e.
there are no arrows entering the problem, then the score remains on
that problem. If there is only one cause of the problem e.g. many
pests is the only cause of low grade , the whole score (3) is moved
back to that cause. At each stage the scores are written on the
diagram before the beans are moved on.
f If a cause has more than one effect, then the scores from these effect
arrows are added together. This total is then divided between the
different causes of the problem, as in step (c). In the example below
the total score for many pests (7) is obtained by adding the score
from low grade (3) and the score from low yields (4).
••• (3) •••••••
•••• (4) ••• (3)
Low grade Low yields
Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods FIELD MANUAL 21
g The scoring is continued until all the problems on the diagram have
been scored. The beans or counters should end up on the root
h On completion of the scoring process, the relative scores of the root
causes can be compared. The higher the score the more important
the problem. This helps the farmers to prioritise the problems which
require action. These scores and the reasoning behind the scores (i.e.
the causes and effects on the diagram) should be clarified with the
i The possible solutions to the root causes can be discussed and the
effects of these solutions traced back on the diagram.
j If the original list of problems were scored or ranked at the beginning
of the exercise it can be useful to compare this with the ranking of
problems using scores from the diagram (see the poultry example,
section 1.7). Differences should be discussed and the reasons for
lower or higher than expected ranked positions identified from the
diagram (in terms of the causes and effects of the different problems).
Farmers should decide whether the original rank or the rank from the
Causal Diagram is more representative of the scale of the problem.
Conclusions from the exercise should be clarified by farmers at the
end of the exercise and any misinterpretations clarified.
k It can be useful to get different categories of farmers to score the
same diagram. These categories may be defined by the way they
produce a particular crop (as in Box 3) or different wealth, gender or
age groups could be used. This highlights the differences between the
priorities and problems facing these different categories of farmers.
22 FIELD MANUAL Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods
1.7 Scored Causal Diagram: example from Zimbabwe
This example is taken from an exercise carried out with a group of
farmers in Buhera District, Zimbabwe who are involved in keeping
poultry as an income generating project. Problems of keeping poultry
were discussed, listed and scored. A Causal Diagram was then
constructed and scored using the method described above, starting with
100 beans on the end problem of small profit from poultry . Despite the
apparent complexity of the final diagram, farmers were perfectly able to
carry out the exercise themselves, facilitated by the extension worker
and researcher when necessary. The original ranking was compared
with the ranking from scores from the Causal Diagram, and the reasons
for differences analysed.
Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods FIELD MANUAL 23
Fig 3 Scored Causal Diagram for poultry enterprise, Buhera District, Zimbabwe
1.7.2 Explanation of poultry Causal Diagram
Considerable discussion took place during the drawing and scoring of
the diagram. This helped in defining the problems more clearly and in
giving relative values to the causes of each problem. For example, the
major cause of small profit was considered to be lack of feeds resulting
in thin chickens which fetched a low price. Death of chickens was a less
important cause of small profit than lack of feeds as relatively few birds
actually died. Lack of feeds was in turn partly caused by no market as
farmers were not able to sell their chickens so they had to keep them
longer, which resulted in feeds running out.
24 FIELD MANUAL Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods
As the inter-relationships were identified and discussed, the exact nature
of the problems were clarified. For example, for the problem of no
market it was crucial to determine what this meant and why there was
no market . It transpired that healthy chickens sold well, and there was
only a problem of no market if your chickens were unhealthy. This
highlighted the need for disease and parasite control and therefore good
housing and equipment. A farmer suggested that the no market problem
could also be reduced if production was timed to coincide with peak
demand, e.g. Christmas. A comparison of the relative importance of the
problems from the initial scoring and from the scoring of the Causal
Diagram showed some interesting differences (see Table 1 below).
Table 1 Comparison of scores and ranks from initial exercise with those from SCD
Original score Causal Diagram Difference between
Problem (rank) score (rank) ranks
No chemicals 10 (6=) 16 (6=)
Lack of feeds 28 (2) 57 (3) (-)
No Market 30 (1) 87 (1)
Poor housing 14 (4) 49 (4)
Parasites 6 (10) 45 (5) (+++++)
No spraying Eqpt. 8 (9) 15 (8) (+)
Poor feeders etc. 10 (6=) 16 (6=)
Poor brooder 12 (5) 4 (9) (- - - - )
Predators 18 (3) 1 (10=) (- - - - - - - )
Heat 4 (11) 1 (10=) (+)
Diseases 9 (8) 58 (2) (++++++)
22 score (++) increase in rank by 2 positions
(2) rank (- - - ) decrease in rank by 3 positions
Bold = root cause
The main differences between the Causal Diagram ranking and ranking
from initial scores are given below together with possible reasons for the
! The importance of parasites increased because they affect marketing
as well as leading to disease and death.
! Poor brooder decreased in importance as this is not a major cause
of death of chickens .
! Predators are actually a very minor cause of death. It is probable
that this problem was exaggerated in the initial scoring because if
predators do get into the chicken run, losses are very high. However
this rarely happens and is therefore not generally a serious problem.
Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods FIELD MANUAL 25
! Diseases increased in importance greatly as these are a major
cause of no market , as they result in thin chickens , in addition to
causing the death of chickens .
! Of the root causes, poor housing was identified as the most
important as this was a major cause of diseases and parasites
which in turn cause the problem of no market . Poor housing
reflected the cleanliness of the structure, not simply the quality of
1.7.3 Conclusions from the exercise
Farmers said that the main lessons they learned from the exercise was
that a few healthy chickens were more likely to be profitable than many
unhealthy chickens. They also emphasised the importance of
recognising that all factors act together, and that if one ingredient were
missing, e.g. disease control, that this significantly affected the
enterprise adversely. The comparison of scores indicated that the initial
scoring of problems was misleading for certain aspects e.g. the
importance of predators . Further analysis through drawing and scoring
of the Causal Diagram led to scores which better reflected the reality of
problems relating to poultry production in this area.
No technical information was given to the farmers during this exercise,
and all solutions were suggested by the group themselves. The outsiders
simply acted as facilitators, showing the farmers how to undertake the
exercise and then just asking questions. The benefit of this process to
both farmers and researchers in understanding the system and in
considering solutions to the problems faced was considerable.
26 FIELD MANUAL Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods
Photograph 3 Scoring of poultry Causal Diagram
Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods FIELD MANUAL 27
1.8 Uses of Scored Causal Diagrams
The construction of Scored Causal Diagrams enables farmers and
outsiders to undertake an in-depth analysis of problems, and the cause
and effect relationships between these problems. Through this process
the root causes are identified which need to be resolved if a significant
impact on the problem area is to be achieved. The scoring process adds
to understanding and involves an in-depth, logical analysis of the
situation. It therefore usually results in a more accurate picture of the
scale of the problems in relation to one another than is achieved through
more straightforward ranking and scoring procedures. However, reasons
for any differences between initial rankings and those obtained from
causal diagramming need to be explored with participants. The scores
do not give absolute values but help to prioritise the problem areas, with
respect to the impact that solving them in isolation is likely to have. They
are therefore helpful in decision-making processes.
Despite the apparent complexity of this method, farmers are easily able
to construct the diagram and score it if the technique is demonstrated
clearly. The initial increased direction by the facilitator is paid off by the
increased depth of analysis that is achieved through the use of this
method. However, the construction and scoring of Causal Diagrams
does take significantly longer (approx 2 hrs 30 mins in total) than some of
the more commonly used scoring techniques. SCDs are therefore less
appropriate as a rapid survey tool.
The greatest potential of this method lies in empowering communities to
analyse and solve their own problems. However, it is also a useful
technique for use in participatory needs assessment activities
undertaken by outsiders, particularly when in-depth information is
required on a specific enterprise or issue.
The proper use of SCDs requires confidence and familiarity with the
technique, which can only be built up through experience of using the
method. So, don t give up if it does not work the first time!
28 FIELD MANUAL Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods
Method 2: Participatory Budgets (PBs)
Participatory budgeting is a method which allows farmers and outsiders
to quantify and analyse resource inputs and outputs over time for a
particular enterprise, or for a particular resource over the farm as a
whole. This method is based on a traditional African board game
generically known as mancala (tsoro in Zimbabwe and oware in Ghana),
and builds on farmers abilities to play this essentially mathematical
game, together with their ability to rank, score and construct seasonal
diagrams which has been demonstrated in PRA activities. The method
seeks to enable analysis and planning. It involves quantifying resources,
but avoids the limitations of more traditional farm management methods.
Participatory Budgets are simple and easy to use. They can take account
of non-cash resources, they look at resource use over time, and they are
implemented using readily available local materials. The method can be
used with individual farmers, or with a group of farmers where one is
acting as a case-study. Alternatively, an average budget can be made
up for a given size of enterprise, if all the farmers in the group have
similar characteristics in terms of their production practices and available
Participatory Budgets (PBs) are tools which examine a farmer s
use and production of resources over time for a specific enterprise.
Their main uses are for:
! analysing farmers existing activities, resource-use and production
! exploring the resource implications of a change to an enterprise
! comparing different enterprises
! planning a new enterprise.
Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods FIELD MANUAL 29
2.2 Description of method
Materials Rows of holes in a board or on the ground, or a grid.
required Beans, seeds or anything which can act as counters.
On the board or grid, time is represented by each column being a month,
week, day or other period of time. The first column of holes is therefore
the first month, the second the second month etc. Activities for each time
period are indicated in the top row, using symbols. The types of
resources are indicated by different types of beans in different rows on
the board or grid. Quantities of resources are indicated by the number of
beans, with a value attached to each bean or counter.
Figure 4 Enterprise Budget
Different resources e.g. labour, cash, food stocks, and how they vary
over time can be represented on the budget. A budget for a particular
enterprise (enterprise budget) can be produced which shows the labour,
cash and other resources required each month. Resource outputs of the
enterprise should also be included. It is important that the size of the
enterprise is specified, for example the area of planted crop or the
number of livestock. If inputs (expenditure) for the enterprise and outputs
(income) are converted to cash values, the enterprise profit or loss can
be worked out. Different enterprises can be compared by constructing
PBs for them. The effect of making a change (e.g. changing fertiliser
rates) to an existing enterprise can also be analysed. The units used in
the budget should be decided by the farmer. Outsiders should not try and
standardise them for their own convenience.
30 FIELD MANUAL Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods
If a particular resource is of interest, rather than an enterprise, a budget
for the use of this resource can be produced for each enterprise on the
farm. For example, a whole-farm labour budget, showing labour use for
each different enterprise on a farm can be constructed (see Figure 5).
Different rows would therefore represent different enterprises, and
different types of beans can represent number of labourers, number of
days or type of labour (e.g. hired or family).
Figure 5 Specific resource budget e.g. for labour
In this manual, time on the Participatory Budgets is indicated from left to
right. This is based on our experience in Ghana and Zimbabwe. In other
contexts and countries it may be more appropriate to adapt the layout of
the budget so that time is indicated in another direction e.g. from right to
left or from top to bottom.
Photograph 4 Women farmers constructing a Participatory Budget in Masvingo
Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods FIELD MANUAL 31
2.3 Suggested procedure for constructing a
a Identify an enterprise which the farmer would like to examine using a
PB. Through discussion ask the farmer what time period she / he
would like to examine the enterprise over. This should normally be the
full production period, e.g. a season. Also clarify the size of the
enterprise, e.g. the field area for crops, or the number of livestock.
b Draw out a large grid on the ground with the number of columns
relating to the number of time periods e.g. months which the
enterprise covers. Ask the farmer to symbolise the different months in
the top row of the grid. If the enterprise is greatly effected by the
rainfall pattern then it can be useful to include an indication of the
rainfall expected by the farmer over this period.
c Ask the farmer to indicate the different activities involved in the
enterprise in each time period by placing symbols in the second row
on the grid.
d Discuss with the farmer which resources she / he considers important,
and would like to include in the budget e.g. seed, labour, cash,
manure. Identify different counters to represent each of these.
e For the first resource selected, identify the units the farmer uses to
measure this resource. For example fertiliser may be indicated by
number of bags, and labour by number of people and number of days.
Ask the farmer to indicate the quantity of that particular resource
required in each month, by placing a specific number of beans /
counters in each column of the next row of the grid. Referring to the
activities row will help with this.
f Repeat step (d) for each of the resources the farmer wants to include
on the PB.
g In the same way indicate the outputs and income that the farmer will
receive from the enterprise, including any by-products e.g. fodder.
h If the farmer is interested in the end balance of resources, this can be
worked out by comparing resources used (expended) and products
received (income). It is important that all the outputs and inputs of the
enterprise are included in this and not just those given cash values.
Therefore the end balance may be expressed as; 3 bags of maize
and $100 cash. Or, if a cash loss is made; 3 bags of maize less $100
cash. More commercially orientated farmers may want to convert all
resources into cash terms and calculate the profit.
32 FIELD MANUAL Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods
i Identify what the potential risks are to the enterprise. For example, if it
is a rain-fed crop what would be the effect of the rains arriving late?
Ask the farmer to indicate the effect of different scenarios on the
budget (see Section 2.4 below).
Practical Tip: For those farmers who find counting a problem, the
following technique will be of help when determining balances:
a gather the counters representing the amount of the resource used
as an input.
b gather the counters representing the amount of the resource
produced as an output.
c take one counter from each pile (i.e. to form a pair) and continue
until no counters are left in one of the piles. The remaining
counters indicate the size of the balance.
Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods FIELD MANUAL 33
2.4 ‘What if …?’ questions – helping to assess the risks
Once a budget has been produced, the effect of different events can be
assessed. For example an increase in the price of an input, a delay in the
onset of the rains or the effect of goats eating the vegetables. The effects
of the event on the different resources and the overall budget can be
examined. This can help in assessing risk, by posing the question how
will I be affected if this happens? This is the first part of the risk element,
the second being how likely is this to occur? By examining enterprises
or new innovations under different scenarios the robustness of the
enterprise or technology can be examined.
Photograph 5 Example of a Participatory Budget from Masvingo Province, Zimbabwe
34 FIELD MANUAL Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods
Figure 6 a Example of a Participatory Budget for a maize enterprise, Buhera District,
Zimbabwe (with annotations)
This Participatory Budget was constructed by a group of women farmers in Buhera District,
Zimbabwe. The budget shows the resource outputs and inputs for 1 acre of maize. When
constructing the budget, symbols and counters were used on the ground. These have been
interpreted for ease of explanation in Figure 6b). All labour used was family labour and the
farmers chose not to cost this. All the produce was sold. Cash figures are given in Zimbabwe
Field size : approx. 1 acre (0.4 Ha.)
Sept Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apri May Jun Jul Aug
Activities -Winter -Buying of -Ploughing -1st -2nd Weeding -Harvest -Cutting and Dehusking Dehusking -Winter Shelling
ploughing seed and and planting weeding weeding green stooking ploughing
-Dry planting -Spreading -Fertiliser -Fertiliser -Fertiliser -Pull weeds -Shelling -Selling
of manure application application application
in the field AN AN
-Digging of -Cutting of -Cultivation -Cultivation -Buying of
manure tree empty bags
-Removal of -Planting late
stover in the maize crop
Labourers required 4 3 4 6 1 1 2 5 2 2 2 1
Lab days 1 month 4 2 6 14 5 5 2 14 3 5 1
No. of draught animals 4 2 2 2 2 4
Days required 3 2 4 2 5 2
Expenditure Digging Seed 10kg 20 empty Transport
manure = =$90.00 bags = $200.00
$300.00 AN 2bags $140.00
Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods
Output Green Fodder 1tonne
mealies (2 bales) $1200.00
Cash balance Outputs — Inputs = 1200 — 1050 =$ 150
Figure 6 b Interpreted Participatory Budget for a maize enterprise, Buhera District,
36 FIELD MANUAL Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods
2.5 Comparative PBs
An adaptation to the Participatory Budget is the comparative PB. This
can be particularly useful when investigating a change to an existing
enterprise, or the adoption of a new enterprise, as it allows a comparison
between the two options to be made. The comparative PB allows a direct
comparison of the resource inputs and outputs of two different options
and helps the farmer to decide which option is more feasible in his / her
particular situation. The method can be used with individuals or a group.
In a group, participants must come to a consensus on the amounts of
inputs and outputs etc. for a specified size of enterprise.
To construct a comparative PB, a PB must first be produced for the
existing enterprise. Then a second budget incorporating the change is
produced. The two budgets are combined onto the same grid on
alternate rows so that activities for the first enterprise are on the top row,
and the activities of the second enterprise are on the second row. This
sequence continues down the grid for all the resources considered (see
Figure 7 below).
There are two different methods of constructing a comparative PB.
1 The two budgets are constructed separately and then combined onto
a large grid. This is suitable if all the participants are familiar with the
two enterprises being examined.
2 Alternatively the first budget can be produced and the second budget
made up directly onto the grid of the first budget. If this method is
used it is important that the rows on the grid are wide enough to
include the second budget. This is more suitable when examining the
resource implications of an adaptation to an existing enterprise.
Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods FIELD MANUAL 37
Figure 7 Example layout for a comparative Participatory Budget, comparing two
enterprises A and B
Month 1 Month 2 Month 3 Month 4
Other Inputs (A)
Other Inputs (B)
Cash Exp. (A)
Cash Exp (B)
2.6 Comparative PB example: groundnuts and
This exercise was carried out at the request of farmers in Buhera District,
Zimbabwe who wanted to compare the two main cash crops grown in
their area, sunflower and groundnuts. This example illustrates the use of
a comparative PB and how PFM methods can be combined with existing
PRA type methods to help farmers in their decision-making.
Initial discussion focused on why farmers grow these two different crops
and what factors are taken into consideration when deciding which crop
to grow. A scoring exercise was then conducted to examine the relative
importance of these decision-making factors (see Table 2). In this way
non-resource factors that could not be considered in the budget were
taken into account.
After the farmer described the field in which he was considering growing
the crop, the group divided into two with the farmer and his wife each
heading one of the groups. Group A drew up a budget for sunflower and
group B a budget for groundnuts for the field described. The two budgets
were then combined on a single grid (see Figure 8).
38 FIELD MANUAL Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods
The scores indicate differences between the crops for each of the criteria
identified. The higher the score, the better. For example for the criteria of
yield, groundnuts (9) give better yields than sunflower (2). For seed
availability sunflower seed (8) is much easier to obtain than groundnut
seed (3). Farmers also ranked the importance of each of the criteria in
Table 2 Scores of decision-making criteria
Criteria GN SF Importance of criteria
Yield 9 2 1 (i.e. most important)
Seed availability 3 8 2=
N-fixation (manure) 8 1 2 = (important as if rotate with maize
get good maize crop)
Price/income 6 1 3
Ease of processing into oil 2 7 4
Ease of processing into butter 10 1 (can t) 5
Use for feeds 1 1 6
Drought tolerance 2 10 7 (considered unimportant as outside
Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept
SF Act Winter Seed Planting Thinning Ridging up Harvesting – Threshing Buy empty Transport Clear lands
plough preparation Early weeding cutting Winnowing bags to GMB
(1 bucket) heads
GN Act Planting Weeding Weeding Ridging up Check Uprooting Drying Bagging & Ploughing Preparation
ripening Picking transport (for next of seed
Winnowing season) 3 buckets
people 2 2 3 5 2 0 0 5+1 (hired) 8 1 1 8
days 3 3 3 2 2 0 0 5 4 1 1 3
people 3 5 5 2 0 2 5 5 0 2 0 8
days 3 6 4 3 0 1 5 6 0 3 0 1
SF Cash $30 cost of bags transport
spent excluded as $140
GN Cash $60 $30 $30 $240
SF Income poultry feed $1400
GN Income 3 scotch-carts $4000 (+5
& outputs hay for fodder bags kept for
Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods
SF Balance 1400-170 =
GN Balance 4000-360 =
Figure 8 Comparative Participatory Budget for groundnut and sunflower crops, Buhera
Key SF: sunflower GN: groundnuts
40 FIELD MANUAL Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods
Through construction of the Participatory Budget the farmers were able
to express why they opted for the different crops. It was found that
farmers with little family labour and no money to hire labour grow
sunflower as groundnuts require more labour than sunflower. Better off
farmers, or those who have more family labour, often grow groundnuts
as it is a more profitable crop and there are more uses for it. However,
those who grow groundnuts will often also grow sunflower as an
insurance policy in case there is a drought, as groundnuts are much
more susceptible to drought than sunflower.
The budget illustrated clearly the resources required for the two crops
and their profitability . Visualising the farmers knowledge in this form
clarified and summarised the differences between the two crops for
them. The process of constructing the budget also assisted
communication between the facilitator and farmers, particularly
regarding what factors influence farmers choices between the two crops.
All the farmers were enthusiastic about the exercise and keen to repeat it
for different enterprises.
Photograph 6 Farmers constructing a Participatory Budget for sunflower and
groundnuts, Buhera District, Zimbabwe
Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods FIELD MANUAL 41
2.7 Uses of Participatory Budgets
Participatory Budgets have a variety of potential uses in both research
and extension. As is demonstrated in the previous example, they can be
used by extension staff to jointly explore options with farmers. They can
also be used at several stages of the research process: in preliminary
needs assessment; in the suitability assessment or screening of
technologies / solutions, particularly with reference to their resource
implications; and in the monitoring and evaluation of technologies during
Some specific uses of Participatory Budgets include:
! Exploring the suitability of a new enterprise or technology by
analysing its demand for resources at different times of the year and
comparing this with other demands on those resources
! Comparing a new enterprise or technology with an existing practice
! Examining the likely effects of making changes to an existing
enterprise e.g. replacing chemical fertiliser with manure or compost
! Investigating the effects of timing of activities e.g. to determine the
best timing for poultry production activities to exploit the Christmas
! Exploring risks and the effects of factors outside the farmers control,
by the examination of What if ? scenarios
! Determining the size of a loan required and the realistic timing of
2.8 Potential pitfalls
It is important that Participatory Budgets are not used to convince the
farmer of something, nor should they be seen simply as tools to predict
or record profitability . Their purpose and strength is in helping the
farmer to consider the different factors and issues involved in starting a
new enterprise, or in changing an existing enterprise, in order to help in
their decision-making. Interacting with farmers in this process helps
researchers and extension agents to understand resource options
available to the farmer and the basis for farmers decisions. It is essential
therefore that when using PBs farmers consider what they actually do,
not what they think the outsider wants them to do.
42 FIELD MANUAL Participatory Farm Management (PFM) methods
The facilitator also needs to ensure that the exercise does not get side-
tracked into just considering money. Although PBs can be used to predict
or record profitability , their primary purpose is to enhance
understanding about resource allocation options and decision-making.
All resource inputs and outputs that the participants consider to be
important should be included — however care should be taken to avoid
the budget becoming too complicated.